Petrol vs Diesel. Who Wins?


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Car lovers have long debated the merits of petrol and diesel engines. Some will claim that diesel is better value for money. Others are certain that petrol provides the cheaper value. Some driving purists will maintain that petrol gives the best performance and so must be the best. Greener drivers might argue that diesel is better for the environment. Petrol lovers also have a strong case when it comes to greener driving.

As you can see, the debate is shrouded in a mess of confusing facts and figures. There are merits for both and it varies wildly based on circumstance. For some drivers, diesel will be better value. For others, it will cost them more. In order to settle this once and for all, we’ve pulled together a complete list. We’ve put all the contesting factors together and looked for a winner and a loser.

Cost of the car

Winner: Petrol

First things first, diesel cars are almost always more expensive than their petrol counterparts. Of course, this varies across manufacturers and models. However, a general assumption can be made here. Looking at your average hatchback range, the diesel will cost £1000 – £1500 more. When it comes to buying a budget hatchback, that £1000 can cripple your budget. The tables are turned when you reach the top of the range, luxury models. In this case, you’re paying for performance and therefore petrol models will cost more.

Immediate cost of fuel

Winner: Petrol

Although fuel prices fluctuate heavily back and forth, petrol is generally cheaper. When filling up an entire tank, you can expect to pay roughly £3-£5 more with a diesel engine. A petrol engine saves pennies at the pump. So far, it’s not looking good for diesel. So, why exactly do they say that diesel is better value for money? Well, it’s all in the mileage and the fuel economy. That’s what we’ll look at next.

Fuel economy

Winner: Diesel

By a long margin, diesel cars provide a better fuel economy. Again, we’ll look at the average hatchback like a Ford Fiesta or a VW Golf. In general, the diesel versions will travel 25% further on one tank than their petrol cousins. Even though you’re spending more at the pump, you’ll be visiting much less often. This is why diesel supporters generally proclaim that the fuel is better value for money. In the long run, you’ll save money at the pumps.

Overall value for money

Winner: It depends…

Unfortunately, there is no clear cut winner. And that’s why the debate rages on. Diesel cars cost more upfront and more at the pumps. However, you get a lot more mileage out of every tank. Over time, you slowly recoup the additional money you paid. Although the petrol model will save you money at the outset, you’ll be visiting the pumps more often. At a glance, they say that diesel cars are better value if you run them for around three years. Essentially, if you do a lot of driving and plan to own the car for a while, then diesel is the best choice.


Winner: Petrol

In a petrol engine, the fuel is mixed with oxygen in the air before it enters the engine. This creates a much more powerful dynamic and results in faster acceleration. It gives the car more brake horsepower and a higher top speed. In a diesel engine, the air is compressed before entering the engine. The diesel is injected later. This is a much more efficient process. Essentially, it allows the engine to use less fuel. But, it can’t generate the same power. For power and speed, petrol wins.


Winner: Diesel (sort of)

Diesel is generally considered to be the better fuel when it comes to CO2 emissions. It is slightly cleaner with no lead and less pollutants like carbon dioxide. It also burns more efficiently, so gram to gram, it pollutes less. However, as always, it’s not quite so clear cut. Modern petrol cars now have sophisticated catalytic converters. These drastically reduce the level of emissions. The CO emissions from a petrol car are higher than a diesel. However, a diesel car emits more exhaust particles and NOx. For this reason, they create a more visual pollution. They cause a dense smog in cities where modern petrol cars don’t.


Winner: Diesel

Depreciation is the rate at which a car loses value. You’ll have heard how cars lose value as soon as they leave the show room. Within three years they can be less than half their original value. With a diesel car, the depreciation process happens slower. When you come to sell it three years later, it will have held more value than the petrol equivalent. The experts at, who specialise in used cars, tell us that second hand buyers prioritise fuel economy. For that reason, the diesel engine is more valued when it comes to resale.

City Driving

Winner: Petrol

Since we’ve established that there are merits to both, which suits your lifestyle? For some drivers, a petrol engine will produce much better value for money. But for others, the diesel engine will save them a fortune. So, if you do a lot of city driving, the clear winner is the petrol engine. It is cheaper up front and cheaper at the pumps. For quick, short trips every now and then, you’ll save your money by investing in a petrol car. It also leaves less visual pollution hanging over the city.

Extensive, motorway driving

Winner: diesel

If petrol wins in the city, then diesel must win out on the motorway. That much is true. Diesel cars really earn their money back when driven extensively. Their fuel economy means that over a period of two-three years, you’ll save all of that initial cost. Their good mileage means that they’ll perform much better out on the open road.

When it comes to a final decision, it really does depend on your lifestyle. If you’re in it for the long run and like to rack up the miles, then diesel is your fuel of choice. If you prefer to potter around town or like a little power in the engine, chose a petrol. We hope you’re a little closer to making your choice now. Until next time!

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